Innovations in Microfinance: Africa

November 1, 2007 Posted by Update

Claudio Sissa, a Solutions Consultant from our Efficiency Team, recently traveled to Uganda and Kenya to study the African microfinance market. While there, Claudio visited Jamii Bora, a Unitus partner in Nairobi that is leading the way in innovative microfinance practices. Claudio was particularly interested in learning about their implementation of biometric POS (point of sale) devices, their lending methodologies, member acquisition/ retention practices, and Jamii Bora’s new housing project.

Jamii Bora works to provide financial services to the very poor regardless of their gender, economic situation, or religious background. A typical loan size is 2 times savings, and their average loan size is now approximately KSh 7,000 (US$100). Jamii Bora has approximately 170,000 members (as of October 2007), 61 branches, and 150 satellite branches that open once a week.

Effects of the biometric POS on efficiency. Every branch has two biometric (fingerprint identification) POS devices, allowing for real-time reconciliation of accounts while reducing the possibility of fraud. This technology handles communications between the POS devices and the loan tracking system, and in the future, will link with ATMs, supermarket chains, and other retailers.

The use of the biometric POS has had a positive impact on loan officer productivity, and thus on the cost of servicing a loan. Claudio was able to observe at the branch how a typical loan repayment transaction takes less than five minutes to complete, and queues are rare. Members reported to him that before the POS devices, this transaction required a visit that took up to an hour or more to complete. In addition, any member is permitted to pay the loan installment on behalf of other group members which frees up time from the other members to focus on their businesses.

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